NS: What does the growth of environmental activism say about the broader state of China’s civil society? What does it also tell us about the broader commitment, at least in Beijing, of the Chinese government to pursue sustainable development?
WB: The government in China is supportive of the concept of sustainable development. But they still have a blurry picture about what real measures need to be taken. The government has to realize that economic development is not always the goal of humanity. Human development and environmental consideration is an important component of growth and the government should not ignore it in its obsession for growth. Absolute focus on growth affects the livelihood of people and communities in rural and creates more imbalance rather than development.
The people are aware that they want the kind of development that is both good for themselves, for the community, for the country as well as for the rest of the world. People in China are sometimes more visionary than the government.
NS: TIME magazine featured you as the 2006 "Eco-Hero." How have you used this recognition to get more support for the environmental cause? What are your predictions for the future?
WB: It is good publicity not for me but for the cause and it also demonstrates that there are people in China – many people like me who care about the environment and are engaged in the environmental movement
I think we will continue to face political obstacles, but over the years, I would say there will be more dedicated and talented young people who start to engage in the environmental movement. I would say that there will be grassroots organizations in many provinces in China and they are able to get a lot of support from both the public and international community.
There will be more and more people, even from the government, who will start to support this effort, because when they learn more about these environmental organizations, they will know that they are bright, talented, and visionary people behind this. So, I think that I am very optimistic about the future of the environmental movement in China.